Judge Strikes Down WI Collective Bargaining Law

Judge Strikes Down WI Collective Bargaining Law

A county judge in Wisconsin has struck down most of the law Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed last year that restricted public employees' collective bargaining rights and sparked mass protests in Madison. 
 
Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas said the provisions of the law prohibiting union workers from bargaining with local governments over issues like wage increases, benefits and working conditions violated union members' rights to free speech and expression and equal protection because it created different classes of workers, based on whether or not they belonged to a union. 
 
"The statute limits what local governments may offer their employees solely because of that association," Col~s wrote. 
 
The decision potentially opens the door for public employee unions to try to reverse major concessions they made in their current contracts. That, in turn, could squeeze local governments, which now receive less money from the state in exchange for being freed from the burden of collective bargaining. 
 
"The impact could be dramatic," said Don Hietpas, chief financial officer for the Appleton Area School District. 
 
Labor groups cheered the decision. 
 
"This is a good day for Wisconsin's working people and the union movement," Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Stephanie Bloomingdale said in a statement. "When workers choose to join together for mutual aid and protection, their employer should honor their choice, come to the table and discuss wages and working conditions." 
 
But Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said the state will appeal the ruling as well as seek a stay of the decision to keep the law in effect while litigation continues. Gov. Walker, meanwhile, dismissed the decision as the product of a "liberal activist" who "wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor." 
 
"We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process," he said. 
 
The case will likely reach the state's Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority and upheld the law under a challenge on procedural grounds last year. (STATELINE.ORG, CHICAGO TRIBUNE). 

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